From Bil-Mar to The Beacon

Alex Doty • May 2, 2017 at 11:00 AM

The team behind the proposed Bil-Mar redevelopment project provided an update Monday night to Grand Haven City Council about their planned condominium project on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The latest plans, shared by Leeward Ventures LLC, include revisions to the size of the building that would be designed to address parking lease details that need to be worked out with the city.

“Overall, what you’re looking at with the site plan is showing nine condominium units,” said developer Brian Papke, noting that there would also be space for two efficiency units.

The restaurant would be located on the north end of the building with seating space for about 100 customers. The footprint for the new eatery would be on top of part of the city-owned parking lot located next to the present Bil-Mar building.

“What we’d like to propose tonight is the idea that the restaurant becomes city ownership,” Papke told City Council on Monday. “This would be a trade for some land to the north for an easement to the south to access our units.”

Developers say the move would be a way for them to deal with the parking lot lease situation with the city, which the developers say they want to solve before moving forward with the project with the city’s Planning Commission.

The Bil-Mar currently pays $15,000 a year in a lease agreement to use the parking lot, but city officials say the value of the lot is more than that.

Developers say by giving the city control of the restaurant, it would be the primary user of the parking lot, negating the need for the lease agreement.

“The reason for this proposal is because we found ourselves at a stalemate, because we can’t pay more for the parking lot,” Papke said.

Developers say they added additional units to the project, from six to nine, in order to cover the cost of giving the restaurant ownership to the city.

Despite the restaurant proposal, members of City Council were not keen Monday night on the idea of taking ownership and of the larger building scope.

“I’m concerned about overbuilding this site and making this a really big building in order to deal with parking on the site,” Councilman Bob Monetza said.

Monetza noted that he was more apt to favor the developers’ first proposal with a negotiated lease for parking space with the city.

“I think what you’re proposing now is moving away from what I am comfortable with,” he told the developers. “I’m less excited about this proposal than I was with the first.”

Councilman Josh Brugger noted that he wasn’t in favor of the idea of the city owning another restaurant.

“We don’t really do that very well,” he said. “That’s just not what we’re here to do.”

Brugger threw out an alternative idea that would see people pay to park in the lot — a move he said he thought could generate between $26,000 and $36,000 for the city during the summer.

Councilman Mike Fritz also opposed the latest proposal.

“We don’t need to manage any more property. We have a lot as it is already,” he said. “I’m not real revved up with the city owning a restaurant.”

City Manager Pat McGinnis noted that the city would meet with the developers to talk over a proposal for a parking lot lease agreement, which could be brought back to council at its next meeting at the earliest.

The proposed development would be considered a planned unit development. Following a Planning Commission recommendation, City Council would eventually have final say on the planned unit development portion of the project.

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